CHARLOTTE, NC — Drag racers generally like to save all of their luck for race day, but reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders-Stevens had to cash some in Saturday just to qualify for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.
Shortened to just two qualifying attempts due to Friday’s rain, Enders-Stevens didn’t get more than a few feet down the racetrack in either of Saturday’s two sessions. However, because only 16 cars attempted to qualify for this event, she will have the final spot on the elimination ladder, giving her Elite Motorsports team a chance to redeem themselves Sunday.
“You definitely don’t want to put yourself in this position, but if any team can get it together overnight and make a difference tomorrow, it’s this group of guys right here,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve been through it all and this is just another chapter.
“We started the year with a brand-new RJ Racecars Camaro and it’s going to be the next big thing, no doubt about it, but we just haven’t figured out how to match the car and our Elite horsepower to the new tire and fuel the NHRA is making all of us use. We did OK in the first few races but decided to switch back to the car we won the championship with last year because we just know it so much better. She does what we ask her to do every time. The thought is that our learning curve will be shorter.”
Without question, the car swap coupled with Friday’s lost rounds played a role in Enders-Stevens’ subpar performance Saturday, but it’s unlikely that anyone she’ll face Sunday will be excited about seeing her race car in the opposite lane.
In Round 1, Enders-Stevens will line up against top qualifier Chris McGaha (6.474 at 213.70 mph), Shane Gray (6.525 at 211.99 mph), and Buddy Perkinson (6.528 at 212.49 mph).
“With the four-wide deal, the top-two cars from each foursome advance, so we need to make sure we’re one of the two,” Enders-Stevens said. “Fortunately, we have a pit full of champions at Elite, so no one will panic. We’ll do what we do and hope for the best. If we get a hold of the car and the tune-up, we can run with anybody.
“Our teammate (Drew Skillman) went 6.48 and Rodger Brogdon, who leases engines from us, went 6.53 with a super-safe tune-up, so we’ll go look at both of those runs on the computer and try to get our car dialed in.”
Elimination action begins at 1 p.m., Sunday, with Pro Stock starting around 1:45 p.m. ESPN2 will carry the action.